Here’s a scenario you’ve probably experienced: You’re working on something, either at your job or on your own personal project. Maybe it’s some sort of quarterly report, or maybe it’s something purely creative, whatever it is, you’ve hit a dead end. Your head is against the wall and you’re stuck. A problem that should be solvable, somehow isn’t and you can’t seem to find a way around it.
If you’re up against a deadline, it may feel you’re in a crisis. It could be that you’ve got too many options and can’t narrow them down, at the other side of the spectrum, that you can’t come up with one decent idea.
But don’t fret, there is a rather simple way to climb this problem mountain without breaking a sweat: simply leave your desk, smoke a joint and forget about it.
Now, this might seem a little bit too counterintuitively groovy to make any sense, but it’s actually a perfectly logical approach backed up by science.
Firstly, once you take a break from a problem and put it out of your mind, an interesting mental process takes place called “the incubation effect”.
The incubation effect is part of a four-stage theory of creativity, first put forward in by Graham Wallas, an English psychologist, in 1926. The stages are as follows:
There are a couple things that happen when you take a break and forget about what you’ve been working on. The first – your mind gets some much needed rest. The second part is that your subconscious does the heavy lifting.
When you exert conscious effort to understand a problem, you’re training your brain to view that specific problem as important, a byproduct of this is that your subconscious will also see the problem as important and will work overtime for you while you’re off sleeping, playing videogames, or at the gym.
After you’ve taken an appropriate amount of time doing something unrelated to the problem at hand, you will be able to experience some sort of new insight into what you’re struggling with and see a solution that was right in front of you the whole time. Sometime you might need a few hours of incubation, or depending on how complex the problem is, a few days or weeks.
Now, wait, where does the joint come in?
If you’re someone who feels inspired and creative when using cannabis, it has the capacity to enhance the incubation process and propel you towards epiphany. Why? Well, there are many different reasons, including increased frontal lobe activity, deep brain stimulation, and many other neurological effects related to cannabis use.
Most interestingly, a 2010 study by Morgan, Rothwell, et al. showed that one of cannabis’s central properties is its ability to increase “hyper-priming” ; which is related to your ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts. Or in other words – cannabis use can lead to creative epiphanies.
Now, this isn’t earth-shattering, mind-blowing or revolutionary news, and most people who have used cannabis in creative pursuits already know this. Nor does it mean that taking a few hits of sativa will magically put your brain on autopilot and make everything easier (quite the opposite).
But understanding how your conscious and subconscious works, and how cannabis can factor into that process, can definitely help you out the next time you find yourself with your head against the desk.